Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed's Journey Artis enters a turn after receiving the baton in the Raiders' workout on Saturday. Artis, an the Reed girls team will try to improve on last year's fourth-place finish at the state meet.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Kenna Leighton, another Raider, completes the relay exchange at Saturday's practice. Leighton and the Raiders start their season Saturday at Bishop Manogue. The meet starts at 9 a.m.
The echoing gun shots throughout the Truckee Meadows Valley are not the result of a new hunting season. Instead, the gun shots cue the start of the prep track and field season in Nevada.
As the weather starts to warm (in theory) track athletes in the Rail City will start competing to see who can run the fastest, jump the highest and throw the furthest.
A young Reed program is looking to build off last year when the girls finished fourth in the state and the boys finished 12th. The Spanish Springs group is hoping to move up the North ladder after the boys finished eighth in the region and the girls finished 10th i the region. Sparks is attempting to improve in the newly-aligned DI-A North after sending a lone athlete to state last year.
Here is a closer look at the three local track and field squads.
Under coach Dale Moss, the Raiders’ program is building to what it once was, one of the best in the state, but the fourth-year coach admitted his expectations for the season aren’t set in stone.
Reed lost Adrianna Newell (last year’s 200m and 400m state champion) and Brent Kelly (state shot put champion) and other standouts to graduation. The Raiders are also without sophomore Yasmin Thigpen – last year’s North 100m hurdle champion – who moved to Las Vegas (Durango High School) in December.
“We have lost a couple people to graduation and stuff like that. I think we’re pretty young,” Moss said. “As far as expectations, it’s going to be kind of hard to tell who (are going) will step up for us this year.
“We’re so young and it’s kind of hard to tell where we are going to come from. I mean, there are a couple athletes we know that are freshmen that will come in and do a great job for us. But overall, it’s kind of like I’m in the dark this year.”
Anthony Ocegueada, a freshman, leads the list of new faces on the Reed track squad. The long-distance runner qualified for state in cross country in the fall and finished eighth in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics Cross Country Championships in San Antonio after the cross country season. Ocegueda will compete in the 800 meters, 1600m and 3200m.
Moss’ son, Dallas, is also a freshman and expected to immediately make an impact. Dallas, a pole vaulter, finished second in last year’s Junior Olympic National Qualifier for his age group and has cleared 13-6 in competition.
Senior sprinter Victor Gbenjo, sophomore sprinter Eric Espiritu and junior Ben Stevens (1600 meter and 3200m) highlight the returners expected to lead the Reed boys.
On the girls Makayla Linebarger, another freshman phenom, is expected to compete for a state title in the pole vault.
“You’ll be hearing a lot more about her,” Moss said.
Linebarger is the national record holder for her age and the reigning national champion. She has cleared 12-9 in competition. Last year’s state champion jumped 12-7.
Sisters Emilie and Annie Braun, who play a large role on the volleyball team, will make an impact in the 400m and 800m relay as well as the long/triple jump.
Kara Day will join the Brauns as a contributing sprinter. Senior Kelsea Campbell is expected to lead Reed’s long-distance runners.
“We are well-rounded. We just have to put pieces together,” Moss said.
The Raiders start their season Saturday at McQueen. The meet with the Lancers, North Valleys and Hug starts at 9 a.m.
Spanish Springs Cougars
The Cougars are coming of a 2013 campaign that saw the boys finish eighth in the North while the girls finished 10th. Coach Winston Mora expects those numbers to improve in 2014.
“I think we will definitely improve this year,” Mora said. “I think we will move up a couple notches, probably like four. I think our team is good enough to be in that situation.
“According to our training, so far (it is) looking like there is some potential out there for us.”
The list of Spanish Springs’ returners is highlighted by senior burner Shamir Geisinger, who finished sixth in the state in the 200m last season Geisinger, a wide receiver on the football team, earned a football scholarship at Weber State.
The two-sport athlete has a lingering knee injury from football season and will miss the first two meets of the year but Mora said he expects him to be fine.
Mora expects Travis Heilzenrader and Grant Dieter to lead the Cougs’ charge in the long distance events (800 meters and 1600m).
Freshman sprinter Jessica Ozoude (100 meters, 200m and 400m) will join the Reed newcomers making an immediate impact in the North.
“I’m really expecting good things out of her,” Mora said.
Outside of Geisinger’s lingering knee, Mora said the group is adversity-free heading into the season.
“Like I told the kids, ‘hey you guys trained hard and good things are going to happen.’” Mora said. “So I don’t see any trouble down the line so to speak.”
Spanish Springs starts its season Saturday at Bishop Manogue with the Miners, Carson and Reno. The meet starts at 9 a.m.
A season ago, the Railroaders sent now-graduated Darius Devine to compete in the state meet in the 110 meter hurdles. He was the only Railroader to advance past regionals.
Coach Adam Barrett was also saddled with a small squad last year. That is not the case in 2014. “I’ll have to go back and look but I’m pretty sure this is one of the largest teams we’ve had in the last six, seven or eight years,” Barrett said.
Obviously, with any increase in numbers, comes an increase in underclassmen so Barrett said he isn’t exactly sure what to expect this season. He has not talked about team goals with his group, yet, but plans to after the first meet of the season Saturday.
“I have to see what the other schools are doing first so we haven’t really talked about it (goals),” Barrett said. “A lot of that will happen after the first meet.”
Barrett said he expects senior Isaiah Campbell, who led the Railroaders’ basketball team this winter, to play a similar role on the track. He will certainly be kept busy, competing in the 400m relay, the 110m high hurdles, the 300m intermediate hurdles and the high jump.
On the girls side Barrett, said he believes the relay teams to be the team strength.
The Railroaders and Barrett start their season at home Saturday when they host South Tahoe, Incline, North Tahoe, Excel Christian and likely Virginia City. The meet starts at 9:30 a.m.